Google Translate. It’s a great help to a new to a Spanish-speaking-country-but-not-so-fluent-Spanish-speaker such as myself. But it doesn’t always get translation correct. Case in point- Google translated Soles, the local currency here as, “suns”. At first I thought was a pretty funny error. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, as a concept and as a mindfulness practice– think about it– the Sun represents energy, light, warmth; it gives us life. Many people, myself included, use money rather unconsciously and have a troubled relationship with it. What if instead when we spent or received money, we thought of the life giving energy it provides? When we pay someone, we are radiating life-giving energy and warmth.
In reality, that practice is much easier to do here in the tiny town of Pisac, where you can see exactly where your money is going. Most of the shops are tiny, hole-in-the-walls and if you peek behind a billowing curtain, you can sometimes see where the person owning the shop lives. You can see the mouths of the children your purchase is going to feed, because there is a crib or a baby strapped to the shop keepers hip; It’s easy to link spending money and developing a relationship with this person from your community; You depend on each other. Every Sol I spend in Pisac, is allowing a family to purchase propane to cook their food and clothes to keep them warm. It’s not a stretch to see how my radiating soles, provides real warmth and light. And without them, I don’t eat, or have a place to buy single sheets of art paper; there is no Mega-mart nearby.
On a more metaphoric level, I’ve heard some extrañejeros (foreigners) complain that the locals charge foreigners more. They probably do. And so they should. Even the most cash strapped visitors from 1st world countries (me!) have more financial resources than locals, many of whom make less than $6 a day. To me, that’s socialism, not price-gouging or taking advantage of. Why should I think nothing of dropping $60 for a Ralph Lauren scarf, but feel taken advantage of for being charged the same for a hand-woven, locally made rebozzo? And the truth is, I won’t be asked to pay that much. But many travelers still try to get the lowest price possible. That violates the Andean principal of Ayni, or reciprocity– Travelers get a beautifully made item and pay less than they would in the states, and the artisan or store owner gets a fair trade price and gets to have some creature comforts. And really, it’s about fair exchange. We have more of the “sun” of money to radiate, and the locals radiate their sun of happiness and simplicity, authentic spiritual connection and beautiful land; Is it really fair for us to come and absorb all that and withhold our own abundant energy source? Methinks not.
Another type of Sol that can be shared is that of appreciation and kindness. I need to walk through about 40 stalls selling local handicrafts to get to Ulrikes, where I do my best blogging, and I usually don’t want to buy hats, scarves, backpacks, crystals, alpaca slippers and the like. At first I felt overwhelmed by the onslaught of vendors beckoning me and my 1st response was to put my head down and power walk through. But sometimes I wanted to enjoy the beauty of the handicrafts even if I wasn’t going to buy from that vendor. Once I discovered the practice of radiating, I realized that I could still radiate warmth– through appreciation and openness to connecting, even if I was not purchasing. Sure, a heartfelt smile from me ain’t gonna pay the bills, but it seemed like the best way to mitigate the overwhelm. And this too, embodies Ayni– they allow me to admire their beautiful wares without buying, and I allow them to soak up the warmth of my genuine appreciation without my paying. This practice also brings it out of the realm of transaction and into the world of relationship.
Regardless of if you’re buying or browsing, try thinking about money as the energy of the Sun and radiate the currency of relationship.
Half of me is half of you,